“When you’re down a few runs, you want to drive some in,” LaRoche said. “I think you can get a little anxious then and take more than they give you. Probably later in the game, guys were trying to do a little extra to spark something.”
The spark, with the Nationals trailing two-games-to-one, has not been there. In three games, they have stranded 30 runners. They approach a must-win game now 3 for 24 with runners in scoring position. And they know there were a few opportunities against Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter, a veteran built for such situations, that they might have taken a blowout and made it a battle.
“We were just one bloop away from a totally different ballgame,” Werth said.
Start in the first, when they already trailed 1-0. Werth led off with a single, and an out later, Ryan Zimmerman reached on an error. Here came LaRoche, who drove in 100 runs in the regular season, hitting with two men on and just one down.
“You got to keep pouring it on,” LaRoche said.
Instead, they let Carpenter mop up the mess. LaRoche bounced harmlessly to second, and though he beat out the relay to avoid the double play, Carpenter went to work on Morse. With the count 2-1, Morse fouled off one cut fastball, then with two strikes fouled off a curve. Carpenter went back to the cutter, and Morse swung through it. It was just the end of one, and the Nationals were already 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position.
“We’re just not getting timely hits,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “We’re hitting the ball, and getting hits, but not at the right time.”
True enough, considering Desmond went 3 for 4 on Wednesday, and all three hits led off an inning. He singled in the second, was bunted to second, and stood there as Suzuki grounded out and Edwin Jackson, the pitcher, popped up. With one out in the fourth, he doubled to right-center, and never moved again, watching Carpenter easily dispatch Espinosa and Suzuki on routine fly balls.
“I don’t attribute it to being young or inexperienced,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “Just, you know, tip my hat to the other guys.”